Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Sound Of The Words We've Both Fallen Under

I know, I know, look out, it's a blogging spree. A big part of the reason I hadn't posted in so long was that I was afraid, even in edited (ha!) print, that I would somehow ruin the surprise of my surprise trip to Minnesota. Then I was in Minnesota, and too busy eating venison sausage to post. But lots of stuff got crammed up into my brain during that time, so step aside while I continue to clear it out ...

So, after Uncle Buckbuck picked me up from the airport in the midst of Christmas Blizzard '08 and we completed our discussion of the Results-Oriented Workplace model currently in use at the Best Buy corporate headquarters (which we pass on the way from the airport to the ancestral estate), Mr. Baby started to make something resembling a fussy noise for the first time in our eight hours of travel (seriously; I wanted to buy him the entire wire bin of rubber balls at Target for being so good). To appease him, I turned on the radio and immediately dialed up my old friend 97.1, better known locally as Cities 97.

The rest of the ride was spent in conversational silence as I absorbed the radio station. Every song that came on gave me that "Ooh! I love this song!" chill, and I felt a nostalgic ache for those airwaves. Despite my iPod and glovebox full of CDs, I tend to be a radio listener. And although I love WEVL and my morning dose of Drake and Zeke, there isn't a Memphis station that compares to Cities 97 as far as matching my own musical tastes so closely. Where else am I going to hear Del Amitri, Landon Pigg and Corrine Bailey Rae in the course of 15 minutes?

Which got me to thinking ... is Cities 97 that great or did they somehow get their hooks into me in adolescence and form me into the alt-folkie I am today? I was listening to the station while I was wrapping Christmas presents and a new song caught my attention. When I went online to look it up, I saw the info for the 20th anniversary Cities Sampler, and realized, yes, they did this to me. I found 97.1 in high school, so when other 15-year-olds were listening to Dead Milkmen and Violent Femmes, I was getting my BoDeans on.

As anyone forced to listen to music at my house already knows, the Cities Sampler is an annual compilation released by the station. It includes rare, live, and generally acoustic versions of songs from the past year (or so). In the early days, the tracks were pulled from all over the country, but as the station has gained prominence (and, sigh, been Clear Channeled), most of the recordings are from their own in-studio performances and include everyone from obscure local bands to huge national acts (and some who've gone from the former to the latter). All of the money raised by the CD's sales go to local charities, and because of the licensing agreements they form to avoid paying all the profits back in royalties, only a limited number of the albums are released, and once they're gone, they're gone.

I own nine of the samplers, but they've gotten tougher and tougher to acquire and my parents don't always make it to Target on release day to get a copy. I'd been thinking of trying to grab one while I was up north, but apparently all 35,000 copies of this year's volume sold out in an hour. And although it's a little show-offy in its number of big mainstream adult-contemporaries (Matchbox 20? Seriously?), it also has Paolo and Ingrid and Lowen & Navarro's half-Spanish version of "We Belong" that always makes me tear up (and that I currently only have in cassette form). So if any of you Twin Citians happen to have gotten an extra copy, even if it, er, looks like a recordable CD and contains no artwork, I promise I'll donate $20 to Target House if you send it to me. Or $25 if you take off Jason Mraz first.

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